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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sriani Snippets - 4

THE BRADBY – AN OLD AUNT GOES DOWN MEMORY LANE
Sriani Basnayake 

Come June, and Bradby fever grips a fair percentage of Royalists, young and old, and at times ‘infects’ loyal supporters in distant climes who faithfully make their annual pilgrimage to that sacred shrine – ‘The Bradby’. 

One feature of ‘the Bradby’ has been that there has been no gender bias, for even though the game itself is an all male affair, the interest in the game is shared by a large segment of the female population, ranging from sisters, admirers, girl friends, friends of girl friends, mothers, aunts and even grandmothers. In my life, I seem to have gone through all those categories. 

Being a sentimentalist, in recent years I have viewed the Bradby with a mixture of extreme happiness tinged with some sadness. At the 125th Royal Trinity Bradby encounter, when my handsome nephew sporting his no: 8 jersey ran on to the field, I basked in reflected glory, and floated on cloud nine for one long glorious hour, for it was the first time in the history of the Bradby that three generations of one family, three Dissanayakas (father, son and grandson) had played for Royal. My father (S.A.Dissanayaka) played for Royal in 1931 and captained in 1932. My brother Laki played from 1962-64, and his son Gemunu from 1996-98. Cruel fate prevented my brother  from achieving one of his life-long ambitions, that of seeing one of his sons playing in the Bradby. I am sure he and his father would have cheered lustily with all the other Royalists on that far brighter shore, when in 1998, his son as Vice Captain, played brilliantly to humble the Trinitians on their home ground, and win the Bradby Shield for Royal. 

As mentioned earlier, the female of the species gets interested in Rugby for reasons beyond the game. I first went to a rugger match as a young teenager, and knew next to nothing of the rules of Rugby.  It happened that I went only for matches involving the Royal team, for those were the matches that my brother went for, and as I had to be chaperoned by my dear brother, I was sent with him, and my parents were blissfully unaware that he abandoned me from the moment we reached the grounds until it was time to depart.

I took great delight in watching my handsome rugby heroes run on to the field, and was dazzled by their flying tackles, brilliant solo runs and the excitement of the rucks and mauls. My heart missed a beat when my shining knights in armour got tackled, trampled and squashed, and at times injured, and ended up looking a “bloody muddy mess’. 

Gradually I gathered the finer points of the game, but by this time I was interested only in my brother’s rugby skills, and kept my eyes glued on him throughout the sixty minutes. The tension and excitement was too much for me when he got ready to execute one of his famous drop kicks, and I still remember those legendary drop kicks at the Nittawela grounds that helped Royal to thrash Trinity 14/6, and win the Bradby Shield in 1964. 

A quarter century later, his two sons followed the family tradition and played under 17 rugby, and their ageing aunt’s interest in the game was re-kindled. By this time, the effects of advancing age were affecting their aunt’s vision to such an extent that I could spot my little hero on the field only by the number 8 on his jersey, or later by his scrum cap. In addition to the ill effects of the natural process of ageing, my concentration on the game, (or to be more precise, on my nephew) was constantly interrupted and disturbed by other distracting elements which are now part and parcel of popular rugger matches…. viz ..Vociferous female supporters. 

A rugger match is a place for females of all ages to display their fashions, their anatomical endowments, and to see and be seen. The numbers that fell for tackles in the stands may have far surpassed those tackled on the field. The antics in the stands often convinced me that there were much faster numbers on the side lines than the fastest three quarters on the field. Females with little knowledge of the game keep shouting instructions to the players, and one wonders whether their high pitched screams of “tackle low”…  “pass it….pass it”  or “go boy go” etc were meant for the players on the field or those sitting by them in the stands, who were either tackling too high, or had not found touch even though they had covered considerable ground up and under. When fashion decrees that the hemlines go higher and higher each year, the 22 metre line has coincided with the 5 metre line, and the playing area has been so drastically reduced that any blind man will be able to touch down between the posts without the slightest chance of being off side during the entire operation! 

As I pen these lines in this millennium year, I do not know whether I will have the pleasure of watching still another Dissanayaka take the field, but even otherwise, I can enjoy the evening in the company of the ageing Bradby heroes of yesteryear, go down memory lane, and sing:

                        “And we their loyal sons now bear

                         The torch, with hearts as sound as oak,

                         Our lusty throats now raise a cheer

                         For Hartley, Harward, Marsh and Boake.
(This article was first published in the Royal College Bradby Souvenir of 2000, when Sriani’s nephew Gemunu Dissanayaka was Vice Captain of the Royal College 1st XV).

9 comments:

  1. Another gem from the pen of Sriani. I love the hemline bit!
    It was a pleasure to see you at Lucky's on Saturday.

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    1. Thanks Speedy for the encouraging comments after each article. I am glad my snippets are appreciated and keep people laughing!
      Sriani

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  2. Sriani ,This is a masterpiece- I am still laughing after reading it! though it also made me sad about Luck as you used to call him then.I am well used to your humour from our school days. Remember the oratorical contests?
    We rolled in laughter when you delivered your speeches! We also had lots of fun otherwise! I immensely enjoyed your previous snippets too but didn't get round to commenting! Look forward to more.

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    1. Rohini, I am glad you enjoyed the article. I used to go for all the matches that Lak's sons played in, and it always made me sad that he was not there to see them play. He would have been so proud of them. Please do contact me whenever you come to Sri Lanka. It would be lovely to catch up with you. .............Sriani

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  3. Sriani
    Thank you for that wonderful piece of writing which was such a pleasure to read. I appreciate its well disguised humour. By its publication in the Royal College Bradby Shield Souvenir it has earned its place in the annals of its long and distinguished history. I must confess I have never watched a Bradby Shield game but am well aware of its importance in the social calendar in SL. Having friends and relatives in both camps, over the years, I have remained strictly neutral. Rugby is an intensely physical and passionate game which arouses such great emotions. The agony of the vanquished and the ecstasy of the victors are well depicted in the back pages of the newspapers. For Royalists and Trinitians it arouses passions like no other. Long may it flourish.
    ND

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    1. Thanks ND. I get news about you from my dear friend Sweni, who is your ?cousin/aunt? We meet often and phone each other almost eod.
      Sriani

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  4. Sriani
    I must thank you for attending my mother’s funeral. I was in a delicate state of mind and was unable to recognize you or even thank you for being there. I apologise for this unreservedly. Please accept my belated “Thank You” for being so kind and thoughtful.
    ND

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  5. Sriyani, I like to add my voice to those above to say, Thanks! It's so funny, so entertaining and to me so educative on this subject.
    Zita

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    1. Thanks Zita for always taking the trouble to write a comment. It is very encouraging. Glad you enjoy the snippets.
      Sriani

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